Vote counting continues Sunday in Nigeria, with results so far showing the three main candidates for the presidential election tied, with high hopes among young people, many of whom spent the night waiting to “protect” their votes. More than 87 million voters were invited to the polls to choose from among 18 candidates, a president whose arduous task in his four years in office is to reform the most populous country in Africa, suffering from a collapsing economy, violence waged by armed and criminal groups, as well as generalized poverty among the population.
“We are happy this morning because we participated in the most peaceful elections that Nigeria has ever seen,” said mechanic Urobe Digboho, 27.
Despite some security incidents and logistical problems, the elections took place quietly.
But the electronic transmission of the results and their publication to each office separately was long overdue, which raises fears of vote rigging after past polls marred by accusations of fraud.
And at night, crowds of voters in some offices in Lagos (southwest) were filming vote-counting operations directly with their smartphones, while announcing them loudly with electoral staff in a festive atmosphere.
Similar gatherings were recorded at the other end of the country in Kano (North).
Africa’s most populous country is grappling with Islamist insurgencies in the northeast, rampant kidnappings for ransom, conflict between herders and farmers, shortages of cash, fuel and power, as well as endemic corruption and poverty.
Reuters correspondents in areas across the country saw turbulent images on election day, with some polling stations closing on time at 2.30pm (1330GMT) while others had not yet opened. Some centers suspended voting after running out of ballot papers.
“I will wait here to cast my vote. If I don’t vote, how will things change?” said Halima Sharif, 23, whose polling station in the northern city of Kano was not yet operational by closing time.
By the evening, some polling stations had already started counting votes while voting was still going on in others and voting was not taking place in others. Some voting is now expected on Sunday.
Some states are expected to announce results on Sunday and final results from all 36 states plus the federal capital, Abuja, are expected to be announced within five days of voting. The elections also included seats in the National Assembly.
Sporadic violence was reported on Saturday, although not on the scale seen in previous elections in the country of more than 200 million people.
Buhari, a retired army general, leaves power after serving eight years, the maximum allowed under the constitution, but has been unable to deliver on his pledges to restore order and security to Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer.
The two parties, which have swapped power in Nigeria since the end of military rule in 1999, are facing an unusually strong challenge from a candidate from a small party with support among young voters.
Independent National Election Commission officials cited technical problems with the new anti-fraud biometric voter accreditation system, late arrivals of vehicles to pick them up, and the absence of voter registers as reasons for the delay.
Mahmoud Yaqubo, head of the Independent National Election Commission, said in a televised press conference that six biometric devices were stolen in northern Katsina state and two in southern Delta state. He also acknowledged the delays but said voters would be able to cast their ballots.
“The elections will take place and no one will be deprived of the right to vote,” he said.
Yakubu said in a subsequent statement that voting will take place on Sunday in several centers where voting operations were significantly disrupted in Ynagoa on Saturday.
sporadic acts of violence
Suspected Boko Haram fighters fired mortars in the rural Gwoza district of northeastern Borno state, epicenter of an Islamist insurgency, killing a child, wounding four others and disrupting voting, army sources said.
In Abuja, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission said that bandits attacked a team of the commission after a man was arrested on suspicion of buying the votes of a group of people using a banking application.
A Reuters TV crew saw police arrest four men in Lagos on suspicion of voter intimidation, while an election observer from a local civil society group said he saw thugs armed with knives, chains and bottles smash ballot boxes.
Today, however, most areas proceeded safely despite frustration with delays.
The main contenders in the race to succeed Buhari are former Lagos governor Bola Tinubu, 70, of the ruling Congress Party, Atiku Abubakar, 76, of the main opposition People’s Democratic Party, who previously served as vice president, and former Anambra state governor Peter Obi, 61, is from the Labor Party, the younger of the two.
Tinubu and Atiku are popular in Nigeria and are heavyweight politicians with a decades-old network of connections and a strong publicity campaign.
As for Obi, a Christian from the Igbo ethnic group, he launched his campaign on social media to generate enthusiasm among young voters.
All three cast their votes in their home states.
“The electoral process cannot be 100 percent perfect. People have to accept that,” Tinubu told reporters after the vote.
You have to accept the results.”
The Independent National Election Commission says it has introduced new technologies and procedures to ensure free and fair elections such as a two-mode voter credential system that combines fingerprints and facial biometrics to verify voter identity. However, Reuters correspondents in several locations reported that the Election Commission personnel were having problems operating these devices due to the poor network.
Despite these precautions, analysts warned that risks such as destitution remain, which could make needy citizens vulnerable to vote-buying by candidates, and fuel shortages make it difficult for the Election Commission to deploy staff and equipment to all locations.